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Posted on February 20, 2012

New Research on the growing problem of unemployment amongst 23 to 29 year olds


14th March 2012 

A growing number of Scots in their mid to late twenties are out of work, according to a new research published ahead of a national summit on youth unemployment.

Current government policy focuses on vulnerable school leavers and young adults up to 24 years old, but figures show that unemployment among 23 to 29 year olds has risen just as sharply since the economic downturn.

And the research suggests that there may be early indicators that this generation of young adults face a longer-term decline in living standards.

The research by ScotCen Social Research on behalf of ProjectScotland, the national volunteering programme for young people, uses data from the Scottish Household Survey to show that unemployment among young adults aged 23 to 29 has risen sharply from 6.7 per cent 2007 to 12.4 percent in 2010.

The findings have prompted ProjectScotland to extend its opportunities to young adults up to the age of 30, as well as increase the number available.

ProjectScotland will now offer up to 1000 volunteering places a year, giving young adults aged between 18 and 30 a six-month opportunity with a charity or social enterprise.

Participants will also be supported by a team of 500 new mentors who will offer advice and support throughout their assignment, and often beyond.

Chief Executive Susan Watt today challenged Scots to join ProjectScotland in supporting young unemployed adults.

She said: “We are looking for 500 committed people to join our team of volunteer mentors.

“Thousands of young people now find themselves facing a very uncertain future, through no fault of their own. They did not cause the downturn that has led to this terrible situation.

“It is up to each of us to do what we can to help them, as the First Minister said only recently.”

She went on: “We have thought for some time that unemployment was affecting young adults in their late twenties, but the national effort so far has concentrated largely on vulnerable school leavers and those under 24 years old.

“We commissioned ScotCen to examine the problem and their early findings, sadly, show that our hypotheses is correct. Our further research will help us understand more about this hidden problem, and hopefully lead to a change in policy and approach by both the UK and Scottish governments.

Ms Watt also welcomed the government’s £5 million package for volunteering which was announced at the SNP conference last weekend.

She said: “Since 2005 ProjectScotland has shown that volunteering can make a very important contribution in helping young people towards the world of work, as well as giving young Scots the opportunity to give something back to their community.

“We welcome the Scottish government’s commitment to volunteering as announced by the First Minister and look forward to working with everyone to ensure that all young adults, up to the age of 30, get the opportunities they deserve.”

Professor Andy Furlong of Glasgow University, an expert in youth unemployment, says the cohort of unemployed 23-29 year olds include those who left education at an early stage with relatively few qualifications, as well as those who have left higher education relatively recently.

He called for new initiatives to help all unemployed young people under 30 years old.

“While there is always great concern about youth unemployment, young adults tend not to receive so much attention. This evidence suggests that, in Scotland, 23 to 29 year-olds have been severely affected by recently economic conditions with levels of unemployment far higher than among older people.

“However, the unemployment rate only presents a partial picture of the situation faced by young adults: many occupy insecure positions and face great difficulties finding full-time and permanent jobs.

“There is clearly a need for new initiatives to assist young adults, many of whom have completed higher education.”

Simon Anderson, Director of ScotCen Social Research believes that Scotland has a serious evidence gap in understanding unemployment among young adults.

He says: “Our preliminary research confirms that reported unemployment has risen sharply since 2007 among those aged 23 to 29. The full extent of such difficulties may be disguised both by a growing prevalence of low paid and insecure jobs, and by the ability of families to support, and even accommodate, adult offspring in the short term.

“These increases in youth unemployment may be early indicators of generational “scarring” with the potential to affect earning potential and wellbeing later in life. They may also point to a more fundamental inter-generational decline in living standards.

“There needs to be investment in an evidence base that will allow us to track and understand the experience of all young people in Scotland as they make the increasingly difficult transition into adulthood.”



1. The figures presented here are based on data from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) – a survey that is funded by the Scottish Government and has been collecting information about the characteristics and composition of households since 1999. Although not a source of official unemployment data, the SHS has collected basic information about the current economic activity of all members of participating households in a consistent form since its launch. As such, it provides a potentially valuable way of examining the way in which different age groups have been affected by the downturn. The rate of unemployment has been calculated as the proportion of all those reporting their ‘main activity’ at time of interview as unemployment as a proportion of all those who were economically active at that time.


2. The Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore will host Scotland’s first national summit on youth unemployment on Thursday 15th March in Dundee. He will be joined by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith, as well as Scotland’s Minister for Youth Unemployment Angela Constance and the Finance Secretary John Swinney.


3. ProjectScotland is the national volunteering programme for people aged between 18 and 30 years. It was set up in 2005, and since then 3,750 ProjectScotland volunteers have carried out work with more than 300 Scottish not-for-profit organisations, including the National Trust for Scotland, Community Food Initiatives North East, Edinburgh Cyrenians and StarterPacks Glasgow.

ProjectScotland provides:

    • 1000 volunteer opportunities a year, each lasting between three to six months and with a charity partner.
    • Participants are eligible for Jobseekers Allowance/other benefits while on a ProjectScotland opportunity. There is no sanction if the volunteer leaves early.
    • There are opportunities across Scotland, and ProjectScotland is working to offer them in every local authority area.
    • Mentoring is integral, with each volunteer getting weekly support and guidance from a trained volunteer mentor.

Contact: Susan Dalgety, Communications adviser, ProjectScotland t: 0131 226 0700 | 07805573994 e: |

4. ScotCen Social Research is Scotland’s leading applied social research organisation. It is an integral part of NatCen Social Research, Britain’s leading independent social research institute. ScotCen Social Research believes that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, ScotCen gives the public a powerful and influential role in shaping services that can make a difference to everyone. And as an independent, not-for-profit organisation, it is able to focus its time and energy on meeting clients’ needs and delivering social research that works for society.

Contact: Simon Anderson, Director, ScotCen Social Research t: 0131 228 2167 e:

5. Andy Furlong is Professor of Social Inclusion and Education at the University of Glasgow. His research interests revolve around the experience of young people in education and their transitions from education to employment.

Contact: t: 01413304667 e:

5. The Scottish Government published its Youth Employment Strategy on 31 January, 2012 . In the foreword, the First Minister Alex Salmond wrote: “This youth employment strategy lays out the approach the Scottish Government is taking in supporting young people through an all-Government, all-Scotland approach, with everyone who can make a contribution across Scottish society encouraged to do so.”